Fortnite is back to iOS devices, but it is not in the App Store. Instead, it will be accessible through the Safari mobile browser using GeForce Now, which is starting off a closed beta test of the mobile variant of Fortnite next week.
Epic’s battle royale Fortnite hasn’t been on the App Store since August 2020, when Apple took it down from the App Store. That followed the release of a direct payment system in Fortnite that skipped Apple’s own payment processing, and the 30 percent fee it takes. Epic promoted its own payment system by offering Fortnite V-Bucks at a discount—but only if they were bought directly.
That started a high-profile legal dispute between Epic and Apple that’s still ongoing. Apple came out mostly on top in the initial ruling, although Epic did win on one point: The court said that Apple cannot stop app developers from using their own “purchasing mechanisms” alongside Apple’s own. But the judge also said that the App Store contract between Epic and Apple was valid and enforceable and that Apple was within its rights to end the contract because Epic knowingly broke it—and when, after the ruling was made, Epic asked Apple to fix its developer account, Apple said no.
This isn’t just normal Fortnite blasted to your phone, but a “touch-friendly” version of the game developed by Nvidia and Epic. “While PC games in the GeForce Now library are best experienced on mobile with a gamepad, the introduction of touch controls built by the GeForce Now team offers more options for players, starting with Fortnite,” Nvidia said.
“And we’re just getting started. Cloud-to-mobile gaming is a great opportunity for publishers to get their games into more gamers’ hands with touch-friendly versions of their games. PC games or game engines, like Unreal Engine 4, which support Windows touch events can easily enable mobile touch support on GeForce Now.”
The closed beta test of Fortnite mobile on GeForce Now will start off next week, and it will be open to everyone, although only a limited number of players will be welcomed. You don’t need a GeForce Now account to register for the beta.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Apple will respond to this maneuver. My guess is that it will do nothing: Legal standing aside, having to run Fortnite through GeForce Now is an added layer of complication that will likely put off gamers who aren’t overly tech-savvy. Fortnite is also still absent from the App Store, and thus completely out of mind for a large portion of its potential audience. Committed Fortnite fans may be pleased to see it playable on their iPhones again (assuming the beta goes well) but I don’t think it will significantly change the big picture for Epic.